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Monday, July 30, 2012 | This article is listed in the sections Amusement parks, Magazine and Interviews.

Parkscout introduces: CoasterBuzz

Since parkscout isn't the only leisure park portal on the planet, and since plenty of other amusement park and roller coaster enthusiasts are still whirling through and around the English-speaking web universe in particular, we would like to introduce a loose succession of blogs and sites created by coaster fans.

This time we would like to present the website CoasterBuzz - Portal to the thrill. Here you can particularly find news and interesting facts about big players such as Disney, Cedar Fair or Six Flags. In addition, a number of further news about the leisure industry are published on CoasterBuzz, mostly with corresponding links. Another feature of the site is a database that lists amusement parks throughout the world with their corresponding roller coasters and additional information. Moreover, it provides CoasterBuzz 100, a listing of the top 100 roller coasters as decided by members of CoasterBuzz. The rankings are weekly updated via a sophisticated system. Parkscout spoke to Jeff Putz, Operator of CoasterBuzz.

Achterbahnen in Cedar Point © Cedar Point
© Cedar Point
Rollercoasters at Cedar Point
Parkscout: How did the idea for CoasterBuzz generate?

Jeff Putz: I started "Guide to The Point" in 1998 (now called PointBuzz), covering Cedar Point, and I loved the way a community quickly built up around it. It seemed like a natural step to cast a wider net. At the time, I often read a site called "Voodoo Extreme," which linked to news stories about 3D video cards for computer gaming, and it seemed like a good model to apply to the world of roller coasters. Also keep in mind that, at the time, every other kid with Internet access had a Web site about their local amusement park. Today, we mostly link to mainstream news sites, but back then, it was probably half independent fan sites.

Parkscout: What' s the special thing about your website?

Jeff Putz: Probably its longevity. There are a few active members who have been there since the start, in 2000. The people are what make it special. It's also home to the first online enthusiast club, which started in 2001.

Parkscout: How big is the effort to operate such a site? How much work do you spend on it?

Jeff Putz: It varies quite a bit. The cost really spiraled out of control the first few years, because hosting a Web site with significant traffic wasn't cheap. In terms of software, everything on the site is custom built. There are some open source components, but there are 24,000 lines of code, not counting the test code. The forum itself is something I open source and others can download. On a daily basis, I don't spend a lot of time on it, but whenever I redesign or change significant parts, it usually takes many weeks of free time. I haven't been good about having a regular cadence for that. The current version launched in April, after nearly four years since the last major revision. In between, there were a lot of smaller features added, like the CoasterBuzz 100, our weekly updated ranking system.

Parkscout: Can everybody add news to your site? And if so, do you always verify these news before you post them?

Jeff Putz: Yes, I do approve news manually. Again, back in the day, most of the contributed news was from users who had their own sites, and posted photos or news about their local parks. We only have a few people doing that today, and the rest is news from mainstream news sites.

Parkscout: Tell us more about the scoring points on your site!

Jeff Putz: That's something that's a bit of a social experiment, at the moment. At its core, it gives users a chance to "plus one" posts that people make, instead of making "me too" replies in the forums. We also award points for photo and news contributions, among other things. Certain points, when aggregated, then trigger awards that appear in the user's profile. We have a leader board on the home page, but I plan to ditch that in favor of a weekly update.

Parkscout: How many amusement parks have you already visited? And which one did you like most? And why this one/or these ones?

Jeff Putz: I joke that I'm not a very good enthusiast, as I have less than 200 rides on my track record (one of the features we have on our site). I'll always have a special place in my heart for Universal Orlando, not because of the rides necessarily, but because of the good times I've had there with friends. I grew up near Cedar Point, so that will always be special. Holiday World is also a big deal, again, because of the people.

Jurassic Park River at "Islands of Adventure"
Parkscout: What was your most exciting or remarkable theme park experience?

Jeff Putz: I'll never forget going to Islands of Adventure the first time. It was for the IAAPA social event in 2001, not long after 9/11, so I think everyone needed some escape from real life. I was meeting a couple of friends from CCI [Custom Coasters International] (two of the guys now in The Gravity Group), and everyone was dropped in the park in different places, depending on the bus from your hotel. I was dropped off in Jurassic Park. Most people went right, but I went left, headed to Dueling Dragons. There was no one else on the path, but an actor playing Dr. Hammond from the movie was in full costume, talking to a guy in uniform. No joke, they were talking about feeding schedules for the dinosaurs. That blew my mind, that they were in character, just for me.

Parkscout: Have you ever been to European or Asian parks? Which theme park where you have not been so far, would you like to visit someday?

Jeff Putz: I haven't crossed the seas for amusement parks, and to be honest, they wouldn't be a high priority. That said, I'd really like to see Tokyo DisneySea. It looks amazing.

Parkscout: What about the CoasterBuzz Club? What kind of advantages will you get by membership?

Jeff Putz: The biggest benefit is that we remove the advertising from the site. I hate ads, but they pay the bills. If someone believes the site is worth it, they seem happy to help by joining the club. We also get a lot of members who are looking for an inexpensive way to attend events at Cedar Point and Holiday World, which is also good.

Parkscout: What projects are you planning in future?

Jeff Putz: I've got a significant new feature coming for CoasterBuzz that affects the entire site. Beyond that, I have a number of science projects and things I'm working on not related to roller coasters, and they may or may not end up being a business at some point.

© parkscout/SN/AF

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